TORONTO, ON–By any indication, David Tyndale is not short. He stands five-foot-eleven and 180 pounds and is well over Statistics Canada’s national average of five-foot-eight. However, put him on a basketball court – as close to a land of giants as we have – and it’s a different story. On his own team, the 22-year-old from Mississauga is the shortest of the York Lions players.
“I’ve never had the advantage of my height,” Tyndale says. Early on in his basketball career, he’s had to figure out other ways to dominate. “It’s all about your skill set,” he says. “Heart is what it’s about. Heart is more important than height.”
That partly explains how the explosive point guard from Father Michael Goetz secondary school turned into the York Lions leading scorer (i.e. 16.2 points per game last season) and longest-standing starter, but there’s more.
First is Tyndale’s arrival at York. Tom Oliveri, head coach of the Lions, will say that he always envisioned Tyndale turning into the player he’s become. “I have watched him play more high school games than anybody else,” Oliveri says.
Doing so, Oliveri discovered many sides to Tyndale. First, he found who would be the latest in a long list of quality point guards at York; also, a young man who would be a good fit for York and for whom York would be an equally good fit. The head coach marvels at Tyndale’s growth both on and off the field in the past three years. “His work ethic is probably what I admire most,” Oliveri says. “He’s constantly working on his game, and that’s hard to do.”
Tyndale himself recognizes that he’s a perfectionist. But that might not be exact, because the word has a negative connotation. “I want to do the best that I can at anything that I do,” he says. That includes every practice and all the hard work, which Tyndale mostly sees as “doing what needs to be done.”
This discipline stems from strong expectations. “It’s hard to never settle, and he doesn’t,” Oliveri says. “He never settles for mediocrity.”
It’s a product of his basketball upbringing. “I didn’t lose many games in high school… and I’m not happy with just making the playoffs,” he says. In his eyes then, York hasn’t done much in the playoffs, losing in the second round in Tyndale’s first two seasons, and in the first round last season.
Yet, Tyndale, 22, doesn’t hold himself to a different standard. Nobody will catch him celebrate individual awards, like when he made the OUA East second-team all-star in 2009-2010 or was selected as rookie of the year in 2008-2009. “I don’t get too high (on myself),” he says, “because that’s what the norm is. I’m supposed to play well.”
Are you supposed to be ranked fifth in the entire CIS league? Pretty much, he’d say, and just for good measure: “I’m capable of being No. 1.”
That might happen if Tyndale can improve on some weaknesses, notably on the defensive side. “I always try to work hard on defense,” he says, “even if I have to switch to a [bigger] guy.”
For those reasons, Oliveri also found a leader.
“I have been the captain on pretty much every team I’ve played on,” he says.
Last March, Tyndale and a few teammates attended the Battle of the Boards at Ryerson “to show that I care.” If getting recruits is a big part of building a team, Tyndale will be there.
“I wanted to meet some of the guys personally just so they know that I really care,” he says. “I want to be the best team that we can be.”
Growing up as the youngest of four children of two York alumni, Tyndale praises his two brothers and sister from whom he’s learned how to lead by example. “I see work ethic, and I follow it,” he says. On the eve of a new season now, he has to continue to become more vocal.
Tyndale’s role on the team might also change. Oliveri is hoping he’ll find a facilitator more than a scorer as in years past in his young leader. That’s a transformation that Tyndale has undertaken ever since he arrived at the York campus.
“He’s really worked hard and is learning to be a true point guard where he makes his teammates better,” Oliveri says.
That means sharing the ball and improving his shooting, both of which Tyndale has done according to his coach. Still, maintaining a 16-point-per-game average couldn’t hurt either. Tyndale echoes what his coach is saying, but with a catch. “Scoring comes easy,” he says.
“I was originally not a scorer when I was younger,” he says, “I became one because I was needed to score.”
Put two and two together, and don’t be surprise to see Tyndale become the facilitator that his team needs. In the end, only one thing matters. “I want to win,” Tyndale says. “I take losing hard.”
Finally, there’s what Oliveri still doesn’t know.
Tyndale loves art of any kind, but no one knows about it. “My teammates don’t even know that,” he says. “(Art) used to be my first love.” This is probably why he wants to study Architectural Science one day.
For now, Tyndale’s second love will continue to take centre stage; he still has two seasons of eligibility remaining. He’s just fine with that, providing of course that York can finally start playing to its potential. So far this preseason, the Lions have lost to Mercyhurst, Humber and Algoma while beating Wittenberg. That, of course, does not sit well with York’s shortest player.
“[He]’s an outstanding competitor,” Olivery says. “It’s who he is as a person.”